Little Gator puts bite on Vols

The smallest guy on the floor made the biggest baskets of the game as Florida used a 27-6 explosion to turn a second-half deficit into a 75-62 defeat of No. 19 Tennessee Tuesday in Gainesville.

The Vols' Wayne Chism went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 16:01 to play and Florida leading 43-41. Still, a free throw by Bobby Maze and a follow by Brian Williams gave the Vols a 44-43 lead with 14:40 remaining.

That's when the roof caved in on Tennessee, however.

Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus scored inside for the Gators. After a Kenny Boynton free throw, Tyus hit a 15-footer and Macklin scored on a follow to cap a 9-0 spurt that put Florida on top 52-44.

The Gators weren't finished, however. In fact, they were just getting started. After a 3-pointer by UT's Scotty Hopson, 5-foot-8 Erving Walker scored on a drive, then teammate Chandler Parsons added two free throws and a tip-in. Chism returned to the floor but the momentum stayed with the hosts. Walker drained three consecutive 3s and Parsons added another, capping the 27-6 run and bumping the Gator lead to 70-50 with 3:05 to go.

Walker finished with 19 points to pace the Gators and redeem himself following a horrendous showing in Florida's 61-60 loss at Knoxville on Jan. 31. He made just 3 of 9 shots (1 of 6 from 3) that day and committed 6 turnovers.

"It was a struggle to keep Florida from driving to the rim," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "I thought their guards really turned corners on us. We outplayed Erving Walker at our place and Erving Walker really outplayed us this time."

Parsons also scored 19 points for the Gators, now 20-8 overall and 9-4 in SEC action. Macklin chipped in 14 points and Boynton 12.

Scotty Hopson, benched after starting the first 26 games, came off the bench to score 20 points for Tennessee, now 20-7 overall and 8-5 in league play. Fellow reserve Cameron Tatum chipped in 13 points. The only Vol starter to hit double-figures was Bobby Maze with 11 points. Chism, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, was limited to 15 minutes by foul trouble and scored just 7 points.

Tennessee got off to a typically slow start, trailing 11-4 early. When Chism picked up his second foul and went to the bench with 16:21 left to the break, the Vols appeared to be in serious trouble. Instead, they outscored Florida 20-8 to take a 24-19 lead.

Tennessee extended the lead to 35-27 by going 15 1/2 minutes without committing a turnover. The Vols made four turnovers in the final 4:23 of the half, however, helping Florida pull even at 37-all by the break.

The game remained tight until the Gators launched their 27-6 explosion five minutes into the second half.

"We got disrupted offensively," Pearl said. "They were changing defenses from man to zone right there in the middle of a possession. Even though the ball was in front of our bench, I didn't think we got good looks. We got a little 3-ball happy and we just couldn't get the ball inside."

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